Roman Stoad’s Rules for the Road: Part 7

2011 November 17
by Roman Stoad


New research suggests that pollution from traffic can ‘reprogram’ genes in the womb.

Well the traveling season is here and many are rushing off to Thanksgiving dinners with relatives. The highways of America will be clogged with fume spewing cars and trucks. The airways will be filled with criss-crossing poisonous jet trails. Trains will roar out of overcrowded stations, barreling across America on creosote dripping rail-ties, their wheels squealing in the American night. The insanity mounts as the advertising goads us to go, go, go. Get out there! Get away!  And so we do. We head to the rain forest and the mountains and the ruins of this or that once upon a time civilization. We disco in Seville. We get down in Beijing. People like to see themselves anywhere else—probably because they can’t stand it where they are. Social mobility and geographic mobility become equated in the consumer’s mind. And the profit takers sit at the end of the line and pocket that wasted cash, while you spend the next five years paying it off.

Everyone wants to think they are going somewhere, when we all know there’s no where to go and no real reason to do so any way. The only place you ever are is in your own head. But you’re important, everyone tells you so. You have inalienable rights. People think it is their right to travel. Well guess what—there are no rights, there’s only fighting for what you can grab in a world of limited resources. And that photo you have in your head of you and your “best buds” sitting in front of some foreign monument, or dining at some little bistro in the slums of Bangkok—it is only a photo. It’s made out of chemicals and its boring to everyone you show it to. Might as well photo shop it. Enough time passes and you won’t remember if you went there or not.  Indeed, memory can be tricky. You won’t remember if you flew off to Rome for a spaghetti lunch, or jetted over to Corsica for dinner and a show.   Memory and imagination become the same thing after awhile. You don’t need to go anywhere.

Now it might seem ironic to read a “stop-traveling” tirade by an inveterate traveler such as Roman Stoad. But Roman was born to the roads; besides he overstays his welcome everywhere he goes. Seriously, though, the mania for movement does not expand the mind so much as confuse the agenda of selfhood. Who am I? Where do I belong? If only I was over there, instead of here, maybe I might be a decent person or a rich person or a better-looking person. After all, celebrities travel all the time. Maybe I can be a celebrity simply by not being myself.

Angelina traveled to Cambodia to film an ad for fashion house Louis Vuitton. She instantly fell in love with the country. To see Angelina’s journey through Cambodia watch the full commercial after the heartbeat.

But, you say, the economy would collapse if people stopped traveling. (Maybe it will. It’s collapsing anyway.)  Think of all the flight attendants and Pullman porters put out of work by your lack of spending. Think of the vast hotel chains that would have to shut down, the beaches undisturbed by surfboards and fruity cocktails. What about the little mom and pop shops that rely on tourism, can’t have them just scraping by. Think about the imminent collapse of the auto industry and Boeing and Greyhound and Amtrak and Pan Am. Think of the poor rubber manufacturers in Brazil. The sheet metal workers in Kyoto City, out of work for lack of demand for train cars and airplane fuselages.

When Bono and Ali hit the savanna, they carry only Louis Vuitton luggage. During Paris Fashion Week this year, Vuitton and Edun will showcase Africa Rising, a temporary exhibition showcasing Edun’s spring collection.

And yet every trip you make is like a long suction hose sunk deep into Mother Earth and sucking out her resources for the gratification of commerce and your ego. All that rubber and plastic, made from fossil fuels that makes the tires that hold the road on that gas-guzzling car that takes you to grandma’s house to gorge on that no doubt already over-weight body with yet more fattening food and football. Who are you thanking anyway this Thanksgiving? Are you thanking God for your unemployment check? Are you thanking Mayor Bloomberg for his beneficence and the basket of fruit he sent to your mother? Are you thanking Microsoft for your workload or Apple for your addiction? Or are you just going because its what people do, they go.

So before you buy that train ticket, or head out to that nightmare airport—remember this. Your family doesn’t like you anyway and your friends only want you around so they can use your back as a stepping-stone to their next paycheck. These are things that Roman knows. Do the planet a favor. Stay the fuck home. Eat with your neighbors. And think about Roman this holiday.

Fly the crowded skies. Air traffic controllers have one of the highest suicide rates among all professions. Toll booth clerks are not far behind

And if you must travel, well then you might see Roman out the window of your 797 as you get set to launch on your latest South Asian spelunking adventure—there he is on the tarmac scavenging the dead pigeons for that night’s stew. Or maybe as you race through some small town on your way to Self-Fulfillment you might see Roman rummaging through the dumpsters behind the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Oh, the stories you will tell your children.

Roman Stoad is a Roman Road.

Poet of the highway and the rail yard.

And Roman’s been to Paris too.

He walked there.

One hundred years before you were born.

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